Raising Spirits

Thursday, May 15, 2014 

Despite the reality of construction dust and debris, Bill Miller’s head is swimming with visions of shiny stills, oak barrels and enthusiastic customers sampling locally made gins, vodkas, whiskeys and bourbons. As a founding partner, Miller is part of a group working toward opening the J. Carver Distillery in Waconia. They are currently in the process of remodeling an old car dealership on Highway 5 and Mill Lane on the west side of town. “We hope to be a destination spot for the micro-distillery boom,” said Gina Holman, another founding partner who will serve as distillery manager.


Miller has been dreaming of opening his own distillery since his brother Matt gave him a bottle of his own vodka back in 2011. “At the time the laws were not conducive [to opening a distillery] in Minnesota,” explained Miller. “So I shelved it.” Later that same year, the law changed, paving the way for budding distillers to begin crafting their own alcohol in Minnesota. J. Carver Distillery is one of 14 micro-distilleries currently working to take advantage of the law change. Miller’s group closed on the Waconia property on April 1 and immediately began renovations in the hopes of being up and running yet this year. Holman said they chose Waconia for a couple reasons — many of those involved in the project live in the area and the locals are already supportive of the handful of wineries and micro-breweries around.


Three stills have been ordered to facilitate the distilling spirits like vodka, gin, whiskey and bourbon at J. Carver Distillery. “We plan to make stuff that we like that tastes good,” said Miller. “We’re going to be broad.” “We’re not looking to be a one-hit wonder,” said Holman. Vodka and gin are the most likely candidates to be ready for consumption this year. Whiskey and bourbon both need to age before drinking. J. Carver Distillery plans to take advantage of local ingredients as much as possible during the distilling process, said Holman. “Matt understands the craft and has the passion to come up with something different,” said Miller, of his brother who has since moved to Minnesota to partner on this venture. “It becomes the art of the craft,” offered Holman. “We want to come up with unique products and teach people how to drink them,” said Miller. In addition to distilling on site, J. Carver Distillery will also offer tours and feature a sampling room. Current law prohibits the sale of the actual product on site, but the group plans to work with local restaurants and liquor stores to sell their creations to the public.

Contact Mollee Francisco at mfrancisco@swpub.com